Comic – Sculpted


Susan Omand discovers there’s more than penguins to Alan Henderson as she reads Sculpted...

I’m beginning to know the work of Alan Henderson quite well and most of that is by chance. I’ve read and reviewed his wonderful Penned Guin comics collection Melting Pot after he threw a tweet across the bows of the /Garbage-file Twitter timeline “on the off-chance”. Then I spotted his brilliant penguin spoof of the Profits of Doom from Madius Comics’ equally brilliant Papercuts & Inkstains. And, a couple of weeks ago, I discovered that he was going to be at a comic-con that I happened to have a ticket for so I went along to his table to see what he had on offer and came away with a non-Penguin-related comic, Sculpted.

There are five different stories in what Henderson calls “a collection of comic thoughts” and they start with The Measure of Things. Here, the sculpted man from the cover of the book puts life and our place in the world into perspective over a double page spread.

Next, instead of penguins, pigeons take centre stage in what, to me, is the best story in this little collection, New Diner. A group of the birds sit on a garden fence contemplating the bird feeders presented to them and discussing them like a group of friends arguing over where to go for dinner or what to order for takeout. We all have them (or are them) – the friend in the group that doesn’t want to try anywhere new because “I never know how it works” and “what if I don’t like it” with another trying to smooth ruffled feather, so to speak, by placating “If you don’t like it we’ll try somewhere else” and a third who always ends up ordering the same thing, no matter where they go to eat. Now substitute pigeons for people and you get the idea of this very funny cartoon.

The philosophical sculpted man is back again for the third little story The Time of Things, another double page “perspective on life” to make you pause for a moment and think.

Back among the birds for I See You but this time our feathered friend is less than friendly and there’s something really quite an intimidating about this one.

The last cartoon in the collection is the totally surreal “What Freddie’s Moustache Did Next” and a story built of Queen lyrics and a stick man version of Freddie Mercury’s moustache. Kinda magic really... (sorry).

With a sneaky penguin on the back page rounding off the collection, I found I really enjoyed this book. He has some attention-grabbing ideas and a leftfield view of the world that keeps you interested and involved. I will admit the comics are not as laugh out loud funny as I know some of the Penned Guin cartoons are but it’s a refreshing change to see something different from Henderson, proving that he’s more than a one-trick penguin... er... pony. The comedy still raised a smile and he demonstrated that he could handle more serious, meaningful comics with as much aplomb as the pun filled funnies.

I think it’s time for me to be more deliberate about keeping an eye on the work of Alan Henderson, there’s a bright future ahead and it’s not just Penguin shaped.